Coral Is Dying Near BP's Gulf Oil Spill Site

Researchers find major die-off that may be caused by oil

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Scientists have discovered damage to deep-sea coral that may be caused by BP’s huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The findings, in connection with a university study on dispersants, are the first potential evidence of harm being caused to deepwater organisms.

Dead and dying coral formations  were found this week 7 miles from the blown-out well, covered with a brown substance similar to oil, say researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They were on a NOAA research cruise.

The suspicion is that the substance is oil spilled from the well, but tests must be conducted to make the connection. according to the New York Times, researchers believe the coral was killed by the oil spill but don’t consider the brown substance to actually be oil>.

Although the research cruise wasn’t specifically aimed at the oil spill, many other researchers are in the Gulf, trying to figure out what happened to those hundreds of millions of gallons of spilled oil and what impacts they are causing. So far, there are more mystery and hypotheses than answers, although an assessment last month indicates that bluefin tuna spawning in the area was strongly impacted.

There is also some progress in resolving the mystery of what happened as a result of those 1.9 millions gallons of dispersants used against the oil. A University of Maryland study this week suggests that coral are highly susceptible to dispersants, which contain toxic ingredients. The findings support efforts by Earthjustice to rein in the use of dispersants until we know what effects they have on the environment.




From 2006–2014, Terry was managing editor for Earthjustice's blog, online monthly newsletter and print Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine.